For the first time in a while, all of the aspects of the Cubs seem to be firing at once. Sure, that’s aided by the competition. The Reds did a nice job of battling after Jim Riggleman took over the team. But between trades and injuries, what was an average at best team, this team is surely less than average now. Still, as can be seen every day in at least one or two places, it isn’t a given just because one team is a fair bit better than the other that a win will follow. So kudos for the Cubs for a fourth straight victory.
By my count, that’s nine of the last 10 starts have been effective. The lone exception was an emergency start by Tyler Chatwood who had already been bounced from the rotation for ineffectiveness and therefore wasn’t a huge surprise. The Cubs have been getting a fair number of innings from their starters and that’s made it quite a bit easier on the bullpen.
The bats had that five game stretch of only scoring one run, but now they’ve put 28 runs on the board in four games. That is also 10 consecutive games the Cubs have hit at least one home run in now too. The team has moved back into the National League in runs per game. There is progress all around.
It’s fun, I remember early in the season there were a lot of comments about the roster being pretty tight and there not being much room to add to this team. I remember saying that the best teams (particularly those with ample resources) will always add. Add the Cubs did. The bullpen was pretty good and deep (when healthy) but added Jesse Chavez (who has been quite good) and Brandon Kintzler (who has not). The rotation was thought to be one of the best in Cubs history (but wasn’t) has added Cole Hamels (who has been a revelation) and the lineup was deep and the best in the National League but added Daniel Murphy (who just keeps hitting, dating back over a month).
The additions to this team have made an already formidable team all the better. Once Kris Bryant comes back next weekend or shortly thereafter, this team is totally stacked. Baseball comes with no guarantees. There is little advantage to being the presumptive favorite. But make no mistake, this team is the clear favorite to make the World Series from the National League. This isn’t to dismiss a dynamic, young Braves team, a resurgent Cardinals team, or a stacked Dodgers team. The playoffs will start, teams will get hot, teams will get cold. Rarely do the two best teams make the World Series. But the Cubs are once more the favorites to reach the World Series for the second time in three years. How cool is that?
With that, we turn our attention to yesterday’s game as we look at what WPA had to say about Heroes and Goats. As always the Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA (Win Probability Added — here’s a good explanation of how WPA works) and are not in any way subjective. Many days WPA will not tell the story of what happened, but often it can give at least a glimpse to who rose to the occasion in a high leverage moment or who didn’t get the job done in that moment. Also note, for the purposes of Heroes and Goats, we ignore the results of pitchers while they are batting and hitters while they are pitching. With that, we get to the results.
Game 128, August 25 - Cubs slug their way to fourth straight win with 10-6 victory (75-53)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Daniel Murphy (.137). Not to be confused with former major league outfielder David Murphy, Daniel has a four game hitting streak for the Cubs. For the first time as a Cub, he didn’t have two hits in a game. But for the second straight day he hit a home run. This time with Ian Happ aboard. He later reached on a fielder’s choice and error, that drove in a run to give him three RBI on the day. He had just the one hit in five at bats.
- Hero - Willson Contreras (.084). Willson also had just one hit, but it was a double. Maybe, just maybe he’s drifting towards coming out of his slump? He scored one run on the day.
- Sidekick - Ian Happ (.079). Despite 10 runs, none of these Hero stats are all that good. This was a team victory with just about everyone who played contributing. Ian had one hit, an RBI single in the second that drove in the Cubs’ first run. He also reached on an error in the seventh. He scored two runs on the day.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jason Heyward (-.059). Jason is in a bit of a slump of late. He was hitless in four at bats, though he did draw a walk.
- Goat - Brandon Kintzler (-.022). Pitching with an eight run lead you are generally told that whatever you do, don’t walk anybody. Brandon accomplished that. Unfortunately, he allowed two singles and two home runs out of five batters he faced.
- Kid - Albert Almora Jr. (.001). Albert gets into the line of fire as an innocent bystander. He came into the game late and drew a walk in two plate appearances. He scored a run. But he performed a very valuable service. Had he not appeared in the game and taken this spot, then Ben Zobrist would have been here with a three hit game.
WPA Play of the Game: Daniel Murphy followed Ian Happ’s two-out, RBI single in the second with a two-out, two-run homer to give the Cubs a 3-0. (.167)
*Reds Play of the Game: Reds Pitcher Luis Castillo (not to be confused with Luis Castillo who retired a few years ago, the second baseman) had a two-out, RBI single in the third to cut the Cubs lead to 3-2. (.097)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Hero - Pedro Strop 19
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist 16
Up Next: The two teams will conclude their four game series this afternoon. Kyle Hendricks will look to lead the Cubs to a fifth straight win. Kyle is 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA on the season. Over his last seven games, he is 3-2 with a 4.35 ERA. A while back Kyle started limiting his walks and his home runs allowed. His results picked up pretty immediately. Last time out he had a rocky first inning and then settled in to throw seven. He allowed 10 hits and just one walk over seven innings. He allowed two runs. He struck out three. He’s faced the Reds twice this year and has an 0-1 record. He’s thrown 10⅔ innings and allowed nine hits, six walks and eight runs (seven earned). He’s struck out 11. Both starts were in the first half the season and in Cincinnati. Once again, keep the ball in the park and limit walks and I believe he’ll pick up his 10th win today.
The opposition today comes from Homer Bailey. I suspect there is no truth to the rumor that there were fights in the Cubs clubhouse yesterday over who would be in the lineup today. But if there were, you’d understand why. Homer Bailey has lived up to his name this year. He’s allowed 20 home runs in just 91⅓ innings of work. For reference, we’ve been frustrated with the number of home runs Kyle Hendricks has allowed. He has also allowed 20, but in 151⅔ innings of work. Homer is 1-11 with a 6.21 ERA on the season. Over the last seven starts, he is 0-5 with a 6.34 ERA. Last time out he pitched in Milwaukee and allowed eight hits and a walk in six innings of work. He allowed two home runs and three runs over all. Sadly, that is one of his better starts of late. He faced the Cubs once this year. To his credit, he kept the ball in the park that day. He lasted 4⅔ innings and allowed 10 hits and five walks. He allowed six runs and took the loss. For the second time this week I’m going to say: The Cubs are totally going to win this game. I’ll be here to take the abuse if I’m wrong. But seriously, the Cubs will win this game.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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